Fleet News

Former Renault manager accuses carmaker of failure to act on safety issue

RENAULT has been accused by a former employee of deliberately downplaying a design fault that causes the bonnet of some of its cars to open while being driven.

Interviewed on BBC's Watchdog broadcast last night, Graeme Holt, the company's former PR manager, said he left Renault because of the way it had failed to address the problem.

‘I think it's been disgraceful quite frankly. It doesn't get more serious than putting your customers' lives in danger,’ he said on the programme.

Watchdog first revealed the problem with the bonnet of the mark II version of the Renault Clio last April.

Since then, the BBC has heard of more than 1,000 cases of bonnets suddenly opening while on the road. Many cars have been written off, but so far there have been no fatalities.

Renault has always denied this is a safety issue and blamed accidents on customers failing to properly close and maintain their bonnet.

When contacted by us Renault said a joint investigation with the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency concluded that the bonnet catch mechanism of the Clio II has ‘no design or construction defect’.

Renault said the problem was due to ‘poor maintenance’. It refused to comment on what ‘poor maintenance’ was, or how many Clios were affected in the UK.

'We have closely monitored and analysed every case we have received, and a dedicated task force of Renault’s worldwide experts has investigated this issue, including carrying out vehicle inspections. We also kept VOSA fully updated throughout,' said a Renault spokesperson. Renault has issued a statement on the matter. It can be read in full below.

But Graeme Holt, who worked at the company for 12 years, says that's not true. He says Renault themselves quickly established that the cause of the problem is a part that can corrode over time.

‘I absolutely think this a design fault,' he told Watchdog, "because it's only something that affects this particular car.’

Up to half a million Clio IIs – maufactured between 1998 and 2005 – are thought to be on the road.

Earlier this month Renault began writing to owners of the affected model suggesting they visit a Renault dealer to check their bonnet catch was being maintained properly.

This week, David Burrowes MP, chair of the Government's Road Safety Group, tabled a motion in the House of Commons urging further action.

The Clio II is still on sale, rebranded as the Clio Campus. It has the same bonnet catch.

  • Renault’s statement:

    'The media has highlighted cases of Renault customers who have reported that the bonnet of their Clio II has opened whilst the car was being driven. Renault has liaised fully with the independent governing body, the VOSA, on the issue and both Renault and VOSA have concluded that the bonnet catch mechanism of the Clio II has no design or construction defect.

    However Renault recognises that reports of this issue may have caused concern to our customers and, for those who have experienced the incident, some distress. Consequently, we will contact all Clio II owners as part of a reassurance plan, customer safety being of paramount importance to Renault.

    We have closely monitored and analysed every case we have received, and a dedicated task force of Renault’s worldwide experts has investigated this issue, including carrying out vehicle inspections. We also kept VOSA fully updated throughout.

    Renault and VOSA have concluded that the mechanism of the bonnet catch on Clio II is safe, reliable and fit for purpose, providing the vehicle is correctly maintained and the bonnet is closed as prescribed. Our investigations discovered several cases of poor maintenance on Clio IIs where the bonnet had opened whilst the car was being driven.

    Therefore, as part of our reassurance plan and in co-operation with the relevant authorities, we will write to all Clio II customers inviting them into their nearest Renault dealership, where the opening and closing mechanisms of the bonnet will be checked to ensure the correct maintenance is being undertaken. If poor maintenance is detected, the appropriate corrective action will be carried out at no cost to the customer.’

  • Renault video

    Tim Jackson, press and public relations' director, speaks about Renault's investigations into the bonnet faults.

    To view click here.

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